City Buzz, Colonial Charm, or Coastal Paradise…in Panama

I love my life in Panama. Though I travel often, I’m always happy to get back to my home in Panama City, where I’ve been living since 2005.

I just don’t know where else in the world you could live in an exciting, cosmopolitan city on $2,500 a month, including rent. I go to first-run movies in English for $6, enjoy $2 beers at trendy restaurants, and have even signed up for language classes at the local university…six hours a week for just $100 a month. In any other world class city, the cost would be triple.

Retiree-age residents in Panama pay even less, thanks to the famed Pensionado program. Not only does the program allow pensioner expats to obtain residence, it also entitles members to a wide range of money-saving discounts. Pensionados in Panama get 10% to 50% off on everything from hospital visits to entertainment to travel…including flights back home from Panama. Even your restaurant meals are cheaper when you’re a retiree resident of Panama.

I’m not the only one who thinks Panama offers top-notch value. Recent transplants Joyclyn and Armand Brodeur, originally from St. Louis, live in the colonial town of Las Tablas. Located in Panama’s Azuero region, Las Tablas is graced with more sunny days than nearly any other place in the country. Here, a couple can easily live on $1,000 a month, including rent.

“We were looking for a place where you could live on a Social Security check, and Las Tablas fit the bill,” they say. They also discovered friendly neighbors, inexpensive healthcare, and solid infrastructure.

Both visited a local dentist, and were impressed with the offices, equipment, and thorough manner. “She’s the best dentist I’ve ever had,” says Joyclyn. “Armand went in for a broken tooth and paid just $15.”

“I thought I heard wrong,” he says. “She spent an hour and a half on me; it was like a minor surgery. And there was no pain. They are not stingy with the Novocain down here!”

Lorelei Kusin is hard-pressed to choose what she likes best about her life in Panama. She and husband James chose the Caribbean isles of Bocas del Toro. “Sunsets here are as incredible as the sunrises,” she says, adding that she loves the people and the tropical weather…and has no intention of living anywhere cold ever again.

And then there’s the flora and fauna. “It is so diverse. There are white sandy beaches, mangrove reefs all over the place, and virgin rain forest that butts up against the Caribbean,” she says.

Lorelei swims or paddleboards in the turquoise waters that surround her home every morning. Then she heads to town to run her small business, an upscale general store called Super Gourmet, which stocks grocery and deli items, including local treasures like coconut oil, hot sauce, and dark chocolate.

“I live in a vacation mecca and so everybody is in vacation mode, including us business owners,” says Lorelei. “You work for however many hours and at the end of the day, this paradise is yours.”

Whether you’re looking for a place to make some money or stretch your retirement dollar, Panama is more than worthy of consideration. It’s certainly where I plan to spend my golden years. In fact, I’d have to say that every year I spend here is a golden year.

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